Standardized tests compared


Anna Larson

This is an infographic that simplifies the differences between the two tests.

Anna Larson, Staff Writer

At this time of the school year, many juniors and seniors are planning their next four years attending a college or university. To acquire higher education after high school, standardized testing is usually required, such as the ACT or SAT. Generally, universities and colleges in the Midwest have stuck to the ACT while those on the coasts require the SAT.

The biggest difference between the two tests is the content. “The ACT is going to test you on English, math, reading and science and there is the option for writing,” guidance counselor Susan Baker said. “The SAT has an English portion, a math portion and a required writing portion.”

The math section on each of the tests, however, is different. “The math on the SAT is a lot simpler than the math on the ACT, but the English and reading on the SAT are a lot more complex than on the ACT,” senior Ruchi Shekar said.

Even though the tests are made up of different sections, students usually score similarly. “I have noticed over the years when students have taken both the ACT and the SAT I have conversion charts for those scores and they tend to be the same,” Baker said. “So I don’t think it makes that big of a difference. Some students feel more comfortable with one or the other, but the conversion charts show that the overall score tends to be the same.”

It is also said that the SAT tends to be more of a reasoning test while the ACT is more of a content based test. “The ACT is a lot more straight forward whereas on the SAT you had to think more about what they were asking,” Shekar said.

Location-wise, the ACT is given in many places around the metro.“There are a lot of schools in the area that give the ACT test,” Baker said. “If you can’t give into our testing site [at Johnston] you may be assigned over to Urbandale or to Hoover so it’s not like you have to travel great distances.”

The SAT, however, is not as common, and is not given in as many locations. “With the SAT we have had some students who have had to go up to Ames and had to go to different areas in order to take the test,” Baker said. Shekar took it at Iowa State.

Now unlike the ACT, the SAT has separate specific subject tests. “Many times if a student takes the ACT since it tests specific areas they don’t have to take additional tests,” Baker said. “‘With the SAT since it is only math, writing, and English they may be required, especially if they are majoring in a different field, to take the subject test as well.”

The SAT offers a variety of subject tests such as Literature, U.S. History, World History, Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Biology/EM, Chemistry, German, Spanish, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, and many more. “Obviously if you studied Latin you may want to do that to show your strength in Latin,” Baker said. “What I see most of our students doing is picking something in the sciences or the maths and occasionally the literature but usually it’s the math and the science that I have seen students take for the subject test.”